The historic Central Block building had fallen into disrepair over the years. An aggressive campaign was undertaken and the building was rehabilitated and reinhabited. Of course, the story is more complex and interesting and than that. For the purposes of this post, however, it is enough to know that people and institutions in the community came together to preserve a part of our history and the city is better for having this portion of our legacy and inheritance in active use.
The state of the St. George Hotel is shocking. I am amazed that with all of the investment and good work that has been done in the Southside that the Hotel and adjacent properties are in the condition they are. The Terminal Building of the Choo-Choo, one of the grand structures in our city and one of the biggest tourists draws, is set across from the biggest eye-sore in all of downtown (except for arguably BWW). I am not naive- I understand that the St. George has serious issues that make its redevelopment problematic. I also realize that it has shifted hands a time or two, and it is the owner's prerogative to do with their property as they will. Apparently, the back portion of the building has been condemned- this will come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the "structural tree" that had become part of the southwest corner of the building. Although, this a necessary step for any of the myriad development schemes that have been proposed throughout the years, my heart sank a bit when I saw the track hoes.
Regardless of the back story, this whole episode is pretty weak. Have we forgotten who we are are? We're Chattanooga. We're famous for working together to pull off nigh-impossible projects. We have a philanthropic community that rallies around tough causes. Having more than a passing familiarity with the property, its opportunities, its constraints, its importance to the district, and its importance as part of our shared heritage, I am baffled that we have not been able to make something work. For heaven's sake look across the street. The building that the brew pub now inhabits was in dire condition and had a number of development constraints as well. It's now one of the most popular destinations in the Southside.
I know that the redevelopment and restoration of legacy buildings is a tough game. I just think it's a shame that we haven't been able to figure this one out.
On an unrelated note, I will also award the Casey Anthony Honorary Turrible Mom of the Year Award to this lady.